My daughter was in grade school when she and a friend decided to sign-up for a summer camp at the local 4-H Club in Delaware County, which was surprisingly close to our suburban home. The program only lasted a week, but was a nice introduction to life on a farm---and in a barn. The girls got to groom horses, feed chickens, and get up close and personal with numerous animals, while learning about farm life and animal care. The horse exposure, in particular, was a real learning experience. Horses are a lot bigger than the family cat or dog and it took some gumption to get over the initial apprehension and to approach and work with the animals. In the end, it was fun and a real confidence-builder. In fact, Sam went back for a second run through this camp the following summer.
Click here for the 4-H national home page. From here, you can search by state and county for the 4-H near you. Once on that local site, click on the link for programs to see what's offered. Many 4-H Clubs offer a myriad of camps and activities.
In addition to 4-H Clubs, there are numerous farms around the region which cater to kids and make great daytrips. I found a number of them in only a few minutes by Googling "Farm Tours", and "Kids Farms" along with the name of one of our three local states. Of course, once you have the names, addresses and phone numbers lined-up, it's important to take a look at a website for the farm that interests you, or to give them a call, since some farms are more focused on seasonal activities like autumn hayrides versus random summer visits. At many of these locations, you can not only have contact with some animals, but your kids can also see the behind-the-scenes workings of an actual dairy farm, complete with cow-milking and egg harvesting. It can be a real eye-opener for a kid, seeing the actual production of items normally only observed on the grocery shelf or in packages coming out of the family refrigerator.
Most farms are pretty good about sanitation, offering plenty of hand-sanitizing stations or bathrooms where you and your kids can clean-up after touching animals. This is important, since animals by their nature, can be germ and bacteria carriers. It might be a good idea to talk that over with your children on the way to your visit, reinforcing the idea of washing hands immediately after coming in contact with animals, and definitely before eating.
I've included the names of a few farms that came up in my search. Some have web or email links included. They all have at least parital addresses and phone numbers. I haven't been to all of them, however, and this should not be taken as an endorsement of any of these places. It's up to you check them out and investigate whether they offer something that sounds right for you and your kids.
Merrymead Farm: 2222 Valley Forge Road, Lansdale, PA 19446, 610-584-4410
Linvilla Orchards, 137 W Knowlton Rd., Media, PA 19063, (610) 876-7116
Seven Stars Farm: Phoenixville, PA
Highland orchards (not a dairy farm though), 1000 Marshallton Thorndale Rd, West Chester, PA 19380,, Phone: (610) 269-3494
Bobolink Dairy, 369 Stamets Road, Milford, NJ 08848, 973-764-4888
Horse Sleigh Farm, 35 Kayharts Lane, Washington Twp., 908-246-3044
Peaceful Valley Orchards, 150 Pittstown Road, Pittstown NJ, (908)730-7748
Coverdale Farm, a 19th Century operating farm, 543 Way Rd, Greenville Delaware 19807
Ramsey's Farm, pumpkins, hayrides, mazes, tours, learning and field trips, Ramsey Rd, Wilmington, DE 19803
---David MurphyRead more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on 6abc.com.